sleeplessinmississippi

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PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES – Chapter 1

on May 27, 2015

Falling was the easy part.  The landing was the killer.  Don’t know why I got on the step stool in the first place.  I know I am too old and too fat for such a feat.  I also knew that my yard help would be coming later and he could have taken care of this little problem of changing a light bulb for me.  But waiting was out of the question.  What if he couldn’t come, and this didn’t get done today. The world might come to an end and I would have a burned out light bulb.   I laid in the floor for several seconds before moving.  I was frightened that perhaps I had broken a bone or hurt myself in some other way. Finally after what seemed hours, I was able to pull myself up with the use of a nearby chair.  No bones were broken and the light bulb was changed eventually–but not by me.

They say when you are in danger of dying, your whole life passes in front of you. Of course I wasn’t in danger of dying as I laid in the floor, but for some unknown reason, my mind went back to a time and place from another lifetime. Events I hadn’t thought of in years were suddenly coming into view as though it was yesterday. I was barely 17. It was 1964 and I had the world by the tail.  I was madly in love with a sailor and I quit school between my junior and senior year to marry him.  He was leaving for overseas, and  waiting till he got back was out of the question.  No, I wasn’t pregnant.  I was just young and foolish.  I was certain that mother and daddy were stupid and they just didn’t want me to have any fun. So 3 weeks after the wedding, I got on an airplane, leaving my family and friends and everything familiar to me, and headed to San Francisco.  I had never been away from home, never been on an airplane, and just knew the plane would surely crash.  Now back in those days, in addition to a meal, the airline gave a complimentary pack of 3 cigarettes.  And being all of 17 and all grown up I smoked all 3 of those Viceroy cigarettes.  Of course, I didn’t inhale.  I think I have heard that somewhere before.

Finally I was in San Francisco and in the arms of my new husband.  We didn’t have too many weeks until it was time for him to ship out.  He had found us a cute cottage in Alameda where he was stationed at the Naval Air Station.  We had discussed how he would buy our china and crystal while he was in the Philippines, and he would need to keep most of his paycheck.  It ended up that my check would be $9.83 per month for the each of the 3 month stints. He would be gone 3 months, home 3 months, gone 3 months, and so on. It was 1964 and things were definitely cheaper then but each payday there were certain nonedible things I had to have (like toilet paper and sanitary napkins) so stretching a dollar far enough to buy food as well, took on a new and very real meaning to a girl who had never done without anything her whole life.  If it  hadn’t been for my next door neighbor, Lyda Drummond, I would have gone to bed hungry lots of nights.  Strange how you remember certain smells or sounds years afterward.  I remember the delicious smells coming from Lyda’s kitchen across the small patch of  grass between our cottages, and sitting in a chair listening to my stomach growling. I especially loved the smell of bread baking in her oven every Wednesday.  Then she’d call out  “Have you eaten yet, sweetie? The bread is hot. All it needs is eating”. I think Someone with a very keen eye was watching over me during this time, and taking very good care of me.

I had promised mother that I would finish high school, so while my husband was overseas, every day I walked about half a mile from the cottage to Encinal High School.  I was the only married student in a school of about 250, if my memory serves me right. Sometimes for lunch, my sandwich was bread only because I had already run out of  peanut butter which was and still is a staple, and one of the first items I would buy with my $9.83.  My only friend at school would make a comment about my meager lunch, and my pride would tell her that I had eaten a big breakfast or that I was kinda sick at my stomach. I think the students were told not to have anything to do with me.  I have pondered it over the years and probably the administration was afraid that I would discuss intimate details of being married, and they didn’t want the students exposed to such talk.  When the other girls were in gym class I had study hall, except for the swimming part.  You had to know how to swim in order to graduate.  But a teacher was always lingering nearby during P.E.

I had more than the required number of credits which transferred from my high school in New Mexico so was able to graduate mid-term.  On a cold January day, I was called  to the Principal’s office where he handed me my High School diploma…..no cap, no gown, no pictures, no family to hug and congratulate me.  Just a piece of paper and a  lonely walk back to an empty cottage where I fell across the bed and wept.

A lot has changed in 50 years.  If I had it to do over again, would I do it?  Probably so.


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